Brothers convicted in girl's killing sort out confusing story

December 17, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Standing side-by-side in leg irons, Jessie Jackson and his brother James told a county Circuit Court yesterday what they say led to the killing of a Meade High School sophomore three years ago.

James Jackson, 27, of Washington, Ga., who about three hours earlier had been sentenced to life in prison, said he killed 15-year-old Sun Young Chong -- setting her house on fire and firing a fatal shot into her kitchen window -- because he was drunk and angry that her mother had just slammed a door in his face.

Jessie Jackson, a former stockade guard at Fort Meade, said he sent his brother to the home because the victim's mother, Suk Cha Chong, had accused him of sexual assault. He wanted Mrs. Chong to mistake his brother for him and report to police he was harassing her. That way he could say he was with other soldiers at the time and argue she was mistaken about his identity in the assault charge.

Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. yesterday sentenced James Jackson to life plus 10 years for first-degree murder, arson and handgun violations in the death of Ms. Chong.

Judge Thieme said James Jackson might have received a stiffer sentence, but that he had a relatively clean criminal history, had entered a guilty plea and that alcohol had contributed to his conduct.

About three hours later, in the courtroom where the brothers stood side-by-side, Judge Eugene M. Lerner agreed to reduce Jessie Jackson's sentence on conspiracy to commit murder from life plus 30 years to life.

The case -- which has involved two trials, a guilty plea, and a state appeals court order for a new trial -- left many involved with it wondering yesterday what really happened the day of the killing.

"There's just something about this case, there's always been an inconsistency in everything that's involved," Judge Lerner said.

Jessie Jackson had been convicted by a jury of arson and murder in the killing, despite testimony from soldiers that he had been in the Fort Meade barracks at the time. He was sentenced by Judge Lerner to life plus 30 years in prison.

But the Court of Special Appeals overturned that conviction and ordered a new trial, ruling the trial judge incorrectly disallowed evidence that Jessie Jackson had no motive.

By the time his retrial began in March 1992, police had found another witness who identified Jessie's brother, James, as the trigger man. Prosecutors changed their strategy, saying Jessie Jackson did not fire the shots but had arranged for his brother to do it.

Shortly after Jessie Jackson was sentenced a second time to life plus 30 years last April, James Jackson was arrested.

James Jackson pleaded guilty to murder Sept. 22.

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